Chicago Landmarks

Site of the Origin of the Chicago Fire of 1871

Fire ruins, as seen from the corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets, 1871     Address: Dekoven and Jefferson Streets
Year Built: Fire started on October 8, 1871; Sculpture erected, 1961
Architect: Egon Weiner
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: September 15, 1971

View of Sculpture and Plaza, photo by Richard Nickel, 1974 Sometime between 8:45 and 9:30, on the night of October 8, 1871, a fire started in a barn owned by Catherine and Patrick O'Leary on DeKoven Street, 1-1/2 miles southwest of the downtown. Fanned by a strong wind, in a city largely built of wood structures, the blaze raged for nearly 30 hours. Flames spread as far as the city's northern limits (near Fullerton Avenue) before finally dying out in the early morning rain of Tuesday, October 10. Much of the downtown and surrounding areas lay in ruins; 300 were dead and a third of the city's population of 300,000 was left homeless. Ironically and appropriately, Chicago's Fire Department Training Academy stands on the site.